Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Montessori Method
(Maria Montessori, 11:51 -- stopped halfway)
A librivox rough diamond. It's interesting to hear the description of Montessori's method from the Grand Dame herself. The emphasis on listening to the children, and observing where their interests and abilities lie, is very compelling. There's some kookiness about food (e.g., never feed young children raw fruit or vegetables). To make the listening more exciting, the first chapter's reader consistently pronounces pedagogy as it must be said in Russian or perhaps Italian, with such an outre sound that it makes for extra fun.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Handwritten : expressive lettering in the digital age
(Steven Heller & Mirko Ilić, 192pp)
Interesting examples of the expressive use of hand drawn script in the past 20 years.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love
(Sue Johnson, 320pp)
I just skimmed this, and it struck me as a little thin/brothy, yet I did find at least one of the exercises to be useful on categorizing partners' action-reaction cycles.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book of Pirates
(Howard Pyle, 8:01, quit halfway)
Hemingway liked this, but I didn't. The pirates are described as villains, but most of the attention is focused on their activities/exploits, so the value-laden terms don't blind Pyle to the many merits of being a bunch of men on the sea. Even though it's assumed they're all scoundrels, there are passages which recognize the compact that worked efffectively to bind many to act cooperatively in decisive battles. The punishment of "marooning" a man sounds dreadful (whereby a ship would leave a man on an island with just a few days provisions.) It's not clear how frequently this was actually imposed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Radical Empiricism
(William James, 6:45)
Another Librivox recording. Even though I'm a fan of William James, it may be a symptom of my time in life that I didn't find these essays riveting. The last one is untranslated French, so I can be excused for skipping it. Some good thoughts, but at bottom, I didn't really feel engaged by the disputes he addresses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

(Larry McMurtry, 5;37)
A life dealing books, with nice autobiographical flourishes, starting with the box of 19 books young Larry received. His "Cadillac Jack" apparently channelled his collecting passion for books and transformed it to antiques because he felt book collecting was too bloodless. The difficulty of conveying the specialness of a book does end up forcing a compression into the shorthand of "bought for X, sold for 1,000X."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture
(Kirk Varnedoe & Adam Gopnik, 464 pp)
This book plays seriously with the topic of how demotic/low brow stuff has fused with high art. Much of the acheivement traces to Picasso, who collaged in ordinary crap. One of the more surprising cascades: the elevation of sans serif type in modernism (think Futura and Helvetica) is traced to the tendency of Picasso (and Braque) to paste in lowbrow ads from newspapers. Their quotation of the typically vulgar ads used sans serif type, and over the next 15 to 20 years, that association helped elevate the esteem for this kind of typography with the austerities of modernism. On a sentimental level, the authors Varnedoe and Gopnik shared a great friendship, with Varnedoe as director of MOMA, and Gopnik his student and apprentice. Gopnik wrote alternating chapters to this compendious museum catalogue (e.g., the chapter on comic books).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Face to Face with Gorillas
(Michael Nichols, 32pp)
Delightful children's book, with accurate information about the behavior and threats for mountain gorillas. Very good pictures

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life -- Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein
(Hilary Putnam, 136pp)
This brief book, built from 4 lectures that Putnam delivered, was a pleasure to read. I was not familiar with Franz Rosenzweig, the founder of the original Lehrhaus. Putnam devotes most of 2 chapters to this interesting personality. Chapter one treats Rosenzweig's book, Understanding the Sick and the Healthy, which I'd like to read soon. One theme running through the book is that religion is not true or false, but only perceived through the choice of living in accord with its principles. Putnam jokes about covering "3 1/4" Jews (Wittgenstein had interesting ideas about mysticism and religion, but his Jewishness was seriously repressed/denied by his family.) The Buber chapter incisively opened a way of looking at his I-Thou relation that I'd not considered. Putnam made Levinas easier going than I've found by trying to read him, although I did not come away feeling as if I ought to read more of him just now.